Saturday, March 24, 2012

Forensic Study of AF1 Radio Transmission Tapes

Re: Air Force One Radio Transmission Tapes – AF1RT Project – The need for a proper and complete Forensic Study.

The Air Force One radio transmission tapes from November 22, 1963 provide a unique window into the key characters and events that occurred on the day the President was assassinated.

Although the original, complete and unedited tapes are the single most significant government assassination record still being withheld from the public, the existing tapes that we do have give a gripping account of events as they happened, and show us how those in the government reacted to those events.

Besides the tapes officially released by the LBJ Library in the late 1970s, we now have the longer, but still edited tapes discovered among the effects of President Kennedy’s Air Force Aide Gen. Clifton, who can be heard talking on the tapes.

Nathan Raab, the current owner of the Air Force One Radio Transmission Tape that they obtained from the estate of General Clifton, suggested on the Raab Collection web page that a forensic study of the existing Air Force One Radio Tapes could extract much more information, and Doug Horne, the former chief analyst for military records for the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) concurs.

In a Review Board memo Horne wrote: “As a result of our review of the LBJ library’s edited and condensed version of the Air Force One tapes, many noteworthy observations were made which clearly justify ARRB’s pursuit of the unedited versions of these audiotapes, or of other records which could shed light on the ambiguities inherent in the incomplete and intriguing record constituted by these taped conversations. These “investigative leads” are summarized below in no particular order or priority, and regardless of how they are eventually resolved or clarified, any assassination records which could shed light on these sometimes confusing and controversial passages belong in the JFK Collection at NARA.”

So far three major media journalists have reported on the issue, the AP wire service reporter who broke the story of the Clifton tapes, a Boston Globe blogger who wrote about them and TV host, Piers Morgan, who did a show on the subject.

Max Holland has also written a book The Kennedy Assassination Tapes, which was published before the discovery of the Clifton tapes, and fails to deal with any of the substansive issues, and the documentary film The First 24 Hours also features excerpts from the Air Force One tapes, but also fails to mention the most significant conversations on the tapes.

Although there are many issues that must be reviewed on the overall subject of the AF1 radio tapes, most general interest has centered around the two short references to General LeMay, one of President Kennedy’s most powerful adversaries in the military.

There are however, dozens of other issues that are either mentioned on the existing tapes tapes or missing from the tapes, though we know about them from those who have read transcripts of the unedited tapes.

Many of the issues can be understood, many of the outstanding questions can be answered, and the living witnesses should be interviewed while they are still alive and we have the opportunity to question them.

Just as KODAK and their film specialists worked on the Zapruder film “Pro Bono” for the Assassination Records Review Board, and ITEK did work for CBS, I believe we will be able to find a reputable and capable acoustical lab to undertake a professional analysis of the two existing AF1 radio tapes, which would necessitate access to the original tapes at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Raab Collection.

That the NARA would cooperate in this task is confirmed by the records of their agreeing to the additional testing of CD 567, all arguments that support the further testing of any evidence in the case that can lead to a better understanding of the assassination.

Such a forensic analysis of the audio tapes could tell us approximately how long the original tapes were/are, where edits and splices exist on the tapes, place the patched conversations into proper sequence, eliminate static and noise, and decipher conversations that are going on in the background and not meant for broadcast.

In addition, all of those talking on the tapes should be identified, as well as all the subjects they are talking about.

Most importantly, the two tapes can be combined to form one seemless flow that can be broken down into sections and interrupted for commentary and analysis.

In the course of composing my transcript, I broke the original cassette tapes I had into Tape I – Side A and B and Tape II Side A and B, and then broke the information on the tapes into “Patches” of conversations, giving each patch a number.

Since some patches are very short and others very long and containing conversations on a number of subjects by a number of different people, I suggest that the numbered patches be broken down further into separate subjects for further detailed analysis.

As the Clifton Tapes are broken into two parts – and the LBJ Tapes into four parts, they should be combined as they are enhanced, so that in the end we have one, very clear tape of all the extant conversations with that tape time-sequenced.

This combined tape can then be edited with annotated commentary.

The best way to convey this story is by radio. It is an audio tape, and the audio speaks volumes, and makes for easy inclusion in a documentary, which could probably be best marketed via PBS, BBC or some non-commercial, national outlet.

[If you are interested in furthering my research into this subject please contact me at: ]

Summary of “Investigative Leads”:

I - LeMay – Issues. 1) Was he in Michigan? 2) If so, how did he get across the lake to Wiarton, Canada? 3) Hornbuckle, on behalf of the “Chief of Staff” (LeMay) asked where “the body” was. How did LeMay communicate that question to Hornbuckle and why? 4) We may assume that LeMay changed the pick up point from Tornonto to Wiarton because it was closer to where he was, but why did LeMay change his destination from Andrews to DC National? 5) What was the urgent message Col. Dorman tired to get to LeMay? 6) Why were the LeMay references edited out of the officially released tape?
7) Are there any photos of Col. Dorman and Gen. LeMay together?

II – Can the original unedited tapes be located, and where should the quest begin? WHCA, Collins Radio, Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Other?

III – What were the radios and stations involved and where were they?
1) Planes: AF1, AF2, Cargo plane with cars, Press Plane, 86972, Looking Glass, Speckled Trout, C-140 LeMay, Other?
2) Base Stations: Fish Bowl, Collins Radio, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Hickham, Hawaii; White House (Crown), Sit Room at Crown; State Dept base station (Ex. Office Bldg?), Gerry Behn’s Secret Service Office, SAM – Special Air Mission Command Post, SAC Com Post, Strategic Air Command Post Offut AFB, Nebraska; Andrews AFB Operations Center; WHCA – and their field bases at Dallas (Sheritan); Parkland; Love Field (AF1); Trade Mart; Texas Hotel, Fort Worth; etc.

IV: White House Situation Room – Personnel and Activities: Pat Patterson (Stranger); Oliver Hallet; McGeorge Bundy; Andrew Hatcher (?); Others? Who’s calling the shots?

V: Doug Horne’s ARRB Memo lists a number of “investigative leads” that should be pursued:

A. Four radio frequencies were identified as the means of communications between parties onboard aircraft SAM 26000, SAM 86972, and the White House Communications Agency in Washington, namely:
11176 MHZ (Upper sideband)
15011 MHZ (Upper Sideband)
13247 MHZ (Upper sideband)
18027 MHZ (Lower sideband)

Part of the LBJ library collection donated to the JFK Collection at NARA includes a typed summary prepared by Master Sergeant John C. Trimble, USAF (the WHCA technician who was the radio operator onboard Air Force One during the flight from Dallas to Washington on November 22, 1963). In his statement, he says: “I…had three phone patches going simultaneously most of the time.” Since total fight time, from takeoff from Love Field, until “on the blocks” at Andrews AFB was 2 hours and 17 minutes, the unedited audiotapes could conceivably be as long as 7-9 hours in total duration, although how much of this time would be “dead time” is unknown. One serious problem with the edited Air Force One tape is that the listener does not know which frequency (i.e., “patch”) he is listening to at any one time, or whether or not the various conversations which are condensed onto the tape are recorded in the proper time sequence.

B. Onboard Air Force One on the return flight to Washington, Secret Service Agent Kellerman, and later General Ted Clifton (Military Aide to the President) make it clear that their desire is for an ambulance and limousine to take President Kennedy’s body to Walter Reed General Hospital for autopsy “…under guard…,” as specified by General Clifton. Gerald Behn, Head of the White House Secret Service Detail, counters that a helicopter has been arranged to take the President’s body to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda for autopsy, and that all other personnel will be choppered to the South Grounds of the White House. Ultimately, the President’s physician, Admiral George Burkley (on Air Force One), sides with Gerald Behn (at the White House) in support of a Bethesda autopsy and persuades the Surgeon General of the Army, General Heaton (in Washington) to cancel arrangements for a Walter Reed autopsy. Once it becomes clear that Bethesda is to be the site, two things happen: first, both Admiral Burkley and General Clifton insist that the President’s body be transported to Bethesda by ambulance (vice helicopter), even though Gerald Behn at the White House
informs General Clifton that President Kennedy’s Naval Aide, CAPT Shepard, has assured him that it will be no problem for the helicopter to carry the heavy casket; second, even though Admiral Burkley and General Clifton insist on ambulance transport of JFK’s body to Bethesda, Gerald Behn at the White House subsequently orders Roy Kellerman: “You accompany the body aboard the helicopter.” Finally, General Clifton insists and then repeats, in great detail, orders for a forklift and platform at the left rear of the aircraft for the casket, a personnel ramp at the left front of the aircraft for President Johnson and other passengers’ debarkation, and another personnel ramp at the right front of the airplane (the dark, unlit side of the aircraft where there is a galley door) for the departure of Jacqueline Kennedy. These concerns are mirrored at flight’s end in a conversation from Colonel Swindal (Air Force One pilot) to Colonel Cross (USAF also) on the ground. (Editorial notes: (1) The fact that Jacqueline Kennedy never used the ramp at the right front of the aircraft has caused at least one researcher to question the real motivation for its placement; (2) An Air Force document titled: “Historical Highlights of Andrews Air Force Base, 1942-1989″ states that “…the body of the slain President was removed to Walter Reed General Hospital…,” which further fuels the controversy over the movements of the President’s body after Air Force One landed at Andrews. )

C. On one occasion on the tape, Admiral Burkley states to Gerald Behn at the White
House, “I have called General Heaton and asked him…,” but on the LBJ edited audiotape, there is no previous conversation recorded with General Heaton, leading one to the conclusion that a conversation took place which is not present on the edited tape. The first conversation between Burkley and Heaton on the tape comes after this remark.

D. On 4 different occasions on the edited tape, “Crown” (the White House Situation Room) attempts to put “Witness” (CAPT Tazewell Shepard, President Kennedy’s Naval Aide) in communication with Air Force One (and the Air Force One patch with General Heaton) in order to resolve the confusion over the arrangements for the President’s autopsy. There are so many crude edits and breaks on this edited and compressed audio recording that it is unclear whether CAPT Shepard “never got through” to Air Force One at all, or whether he perhaps did on one or more occasions, but those conversations have simply been omitted from of the present version of the recording.

E. Concerning the President’s limousine, SS-100X, two remarks of interest can be heard on the tape. In the first, Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman says to Gerald Behn (at the White House), “I’m sure the Volunteer boys will go over his car and so forth.”
(Note: “Volunteer” was the USSS-WHCA code name for Vice-President Johnson.) Second, apparently late in the flight to Andrews, someone onboard Air Force one is informed about the status of the plane carrying the two cars from Dallas (SS-100X and the Secret Service follow-up car), namely that “…373 (a tail number) departed at 2141 Zulu…the one with the Presidential cars onboard.” Near the end of the flight Air Force One can be heard inquiring if there is an ETA for “the C-130 with the vehicles.”

F. Background chatter can be heard at one point, discussing a “limousine and ambulance at Andrews,” and later in the same background conversation, something about a “black Cadillac”. This is probably an indication of simultaneous conversations taking place onboard Air Force One on different frequencies, which only highlights the importance of obtaining unedited tapes of all of the conversations.

G. During the flight from Dallas to Washington, “SAM Command Post” calls Air Force One and a “Colonel Arnbuck (phonetic) from OPS” expresses a concern from the Chief of Staff (General LeMay?) as to whether President Johnson and Mr. Kennedy’s body is onboard the aircraft. This question is followed immediately on the tape by the confusing tug-of-war over who will control autopsy arrangements, etc.

H. On more than one occasion during the flight, personnel in Washington specifically ask whether Mrs. Kennedy is onboard. “A.F. Command Post” first asks this question, immediately before the “Chief of Staff’s Office” inquires about the whereabouts of President Johnson and Mr. Kennedy’s body. Subsequently, “Air Force Command Post” asks who the top people onboard are. “Winner” (a Mr. Hatcher at “Crown”) later asks if Mrs. Kennedy is onboard. During the flight Admiral Burkley assumes that Mrs. Kennedy will accompany the body, General Clifton very carefully arranges separate debarkation arrangements from the aircraft for Mrs. Kennedy, and Gerald Behn (Head of White House Secret Service Detail) attempts on two occasions to separate all passengers on Air Force One from JFK’s body after arrival (desiring to send the body alone to Bethesda on a helicopter, and all other personnel to the South Grounds of the White House). The significance of this repeated concern about Mrs. Kennedy’s whereabouts and her plans upon landing is a source of controversy among some researchers and is another reason to pursue unedited audiotapes of these flight conversations.

I. Immediately after Behn orders Kellerman to “…accompany the body aboard the helicopter”, the following exchange takes place:
Kellerman: “I was unable to get a hold of Payne and Bob Burke (names are phonetic approximations).” After a break, the words “…Payne and Burke at the ranch…” are heard; it is unclear whether the speaker is Kellerman or Behn. Finally, an unidentified speaker says, “…Payne and Burke were not notified…”. The meaning or possible significance of this exchange, if any, is not known.

J. Immediately after the above exchanges, an unidentified voice twice says, “…is on 6970…”. (Note: Aircraft #86970 was the Vice-Presidential aircraft, which also flew back to Andrews AFB from Love Field on November 22, 1963.)

K. One last noticeable exchange worth reporting is from “Wing” (Brigadier General Godfrey McHugh, USAF, President Kennedy’s Air Force Aide) to “Slugger”(Capt. Cecil Stoughton, USAF, White House photographer who photographed both the swearing-in of LBJ onboard Air Force One in Dallas, and the onloading of JFK’s casket at Love Field): Wing asks that Crown relay to Slugger that he must meet the aircraft as soon as possible after arrival Andrews, and that if he cannot do this, he is to see Wing as soon as possible after arrival, or contact him in any way feasible. The urgency and importance of this matter to Wing is very clear from his tone of voice. Later, Crown informs Wing that Slugger remained on the ground in Dallas. One of the many conversations not on the LBJ transcript which is on the edited tape reads as follows:

Andrews(?): “Air Force One, this is very important.”

Slugger: “This is Capt. Stoughton in Dallas.”

Air Force One: “Warrior advises he is unable to speak with you at the present time and asks would you please call the White House in about 30 minutes.”(Note: It is unclear what this is all about, and additionally unclear why Warrior is the party unable to speak with Slugger, when it was Wing who asked to speak with him in the first place.)



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